Neonatal death information and support

When a baby dies within the first 28 days of life this is called a ‘neonatal death’. Find out why some babies die, understand the grieving process and the practical things you might need to think about after the loss of a baby.
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What does neonatal death mean?

If a baby dies within the first 28 days after they’re born, it is known as a neonatal death.

If a baby dies after 24 weeks of pregnancy, but before they’re born, it is known as a stillbirth. We have support and advice about stillbirth here.

Why do babies die?

After the loss of a baby, it is natural to want answers about why it happened.

Sometimes the answer is clear, and other times a doctor or coroner will need to run tests or do a post-mortem to find out what happened and why. Sometimes they may not be able to find out why.

Common causes of neonatal death

Most neonatal deaths are linked to premature birth, because when babies are born too soon or too small they are more at risk of infection and other serious health problems. However, there are reasons why a baby may not survive, even if they were born at full-term, including:

  • genetic disorders
  • complications during or after birth
  • infections.

Support after your baby dies

The loss of a baby is devastating. We’re here to offer emotional and practical support to parents and families who are going through this experience.

Emotional support for parents after neonatal loss

If you want to talk to a professional about how you’re feeling, our team of expert midwives are available via the Tommy’s advice line on 0800 0147 800, 9am-5pm. If you’re not ready to talk, we have some information that might help:

Emotional support for others after a baby dies

Family, friends and colleagues of those who lost a baby can find it difficult to know what to say or how to help, while also coping with their own grief. Here’s some advice that could help:

Practical support for parents who have lost a baby

As well as managing your emotions in the early days and weeks after loss, you will have decisions and arrangements to make. It is an overwhelming time, but hopefully this practical advice will help guide you through it:

Peer support

A very supportive community has built up over the last few years around pregnancy loss. There are several online communities supporting those who have gone through baby loss or preterm birth. All write movingly about their experiences of loss, life after loss and, in some cases, pregnancy and pregnancy/parenting after loss.

"When my son was stillborn, I couldn’t find anything to read about the mum’s personal experiences and what to expect... I needed something real, something I could relate to." Hannah Pontillo

Pregnancy and parenting after neonatal loss

Pregnancy following the loss of a baby is likely to be an anxious time for both parents. You should have additional support from your healthcare team. Find out what to expect and how to take extra care of yourself:

About Tommy’s

There is still a lack of research into the causes of pregnancy complications and loss, and that is why Tommy’s funds research into the causes of neonatal death, stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth.

  • UNICEF (2017). ‘Child Mortality Estimates – Global and regional child deaths by cause’. Download from https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-survival/neonatal-mortality/. – referencing the UK data
  • NHS Choices [accessed 04/10/2018] Neonatal mortality and stillbirths, https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/national-indicator-library/neonatal-mortality-and-stillbirths#definition